HIT LIST 2013: Aldermen Fioretti, Munoz and Solis join in opposition to the closings... Pilsen Little Village hearing shows continued anger at proposed closings in March 4 hearing at Malcolm X College in Chicago

About 400 people attended the Pilsen School Closing Hearing at Malcom X College on March 4, 2013. Interestingly enough, the court reporter made sure to announce that “Any written stuff you have please get to me so I can include it in the testimony in case you get cut off.” At the Garfield Humboldt Park first hearing, a lot of information was not recorded because the Court Reporter was sent to the basement for the second half of the meeting thus leaving the second half of the main meeting undocumented. Once again parents, students, community members and teachers were begging for students rights to a public education in their community.

Chicago Public Schools Chief of Family and Community Engagement (FACE), Philip Hampton again began the hearing.

People of all ages, from kindergarten and pre-K children to senior citizens, brought their opposition to the proposed closings to the hearing, Substance photo by Kati Gilson.Steve Zrike, Pilsen Network Chief, talked about the document received at the last meeting regarding the school utilization crisis and that what began as ten schools in the "Network" is now down to three -- and the process is not over. “The comments tonight help us to make wise decisions, not only here but across Chicago”, Zrike said. “Please leave written comment with us as part of documentation”. At the Garfield Humboldt Park meetings, participants were never asked by CPS to leave documentation, although some did anyway.

Alderman Danny Solis, 26th Ward, spoke first.

“I don’t believe any school should be closed in Pilsen," Solis told the crowd. He talked about how in the 80s and 90s there was overcrowding in schools in the community. As a result schools were expanded. He also talked about his history of working for better education for kids and having classrooms available for extra programs including math, science, and art. Better facilities mean better support for kids. “We have classrooms for full day kindergarten”, he said. “We’ve had an increase in housing. If the Board of Ed expects me to change zoning on their schools, I’m not going to do it. I’m on the zoning committee.”

Alderman Ricardo Munoz continued his decade-long organizing and opposition to school closings in Pilsen-Little Village by speaking out at the March 4, 2013 hearing at Malcolm X College. Substance photo by David Vance.Alderman Ricardo Munoz, 22nd Ward spoke next. “We are against closings," Munoz said. "It’s important we consider the impact closings will have on neighborhoods. My 8th grade class was in the hallway in the 80s. It was still in the hallway in 1993. From 1993 to 1998 I fought to relieve over crowding in Little Village”.

Munoz noted that Paderewski Elementary, which is still on the closing list, is four blocks from an over crowded school. Munoz's opposition to the closings has been a part of his community work for years, many in the crowd noted.

Munoz reminded the crowd that he has long been opposing the closings. “In 2006-7 I challenged [the schools "Chief Executive Officer" Ron] Huberman to walk the walk, he reminded the crowd. "They said Paderewski kids would be received at Mason -- 17 blocks away!” He talked about Ogden, Cermak and Pulaski, busy intersections the students would have to cross. “Paderewski can not be closed. Those children need that building and education." Thanks to Munoz's challenge, Huberman removed Paderewski from the closing list that year. Now it has been put back on the list by Barbara Byrd Bennett [and CPS has had three CEOs since Huberman...].

Second Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti spoke next.

Second Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti continued his opposition to the closings at the Pilsen Little Village hearing. Substance photo by Kati Gilson.“I believe schools should not be closed," he said. "Many students go to Galileo. Let’s let students in our neighborhoods stay in our neighborhoods. Kids stay in that neighborhood so the kids on Taylor St. can go to the school across from their home. Once a school is closed it stays closed forever.” “The meat cleaver approach pits neighborhood against neighborhood. We are not going to charge students and faculty and parents with what we did wrong for our kids. This is unacceptable. No more charter schools and moratorium on school closings.”

Cook County Commission Garcia 7th District spoke next. “These schools are in my district.” He talked about concern for public safety, strategies to improve existing schools and converting schools to community center. “To members of commission I beg you to listen to parents, teachers, students and community, everyone that supports public education.”

Judge Jesse Reyes was present but did not speak.

Each school was given ten minutes to speak. Jungman was first. Teacher – “No schools should be closed. She talked about their high and increasing scores. 96% of 8th graders have their choice for high school. They have departmentalized instruction 3-8, data driven instruction, 2 science labs, computer labs, technology and 100% of teachers have masters degrees. There is also peer coaching, professional development, learning blocks and the preschool teacher is a co-founder of Virtual Pre-K. They have received numerous grants and have many community partnerships “Jungman is 100% utilized”. She also talked about their future plans including dual language pre-k. “If Jungman School is not a school on the rise then tell us what is”.

Student – He talked about how he felt welcomed by students when he was a new student in fourth grade and the help he received from teachers when he came to Jungman. He is no in 6th grade. “If you close our school it will be like we lost part of our family”. He has Pre-K siblings.

The next speaker spoke in Spanish. There was no English translation, The next speaker was a community member who runs an art studio in Pilsen. They offer after and in school programs, youth enrichments, Art of Change and arts and Science program. “Parents, teachers and community based organizations provide a healthy network and enriched programs bring economic growth. We employee neighborhood artists. Closing the school would cost jobs.

Paderewski School was next. First to speak was parent Darlene Williams. She talked about the danger of crossing main streets drug sales and gang members in the area where students would have to commute to. They have a brand new principal who has brought much to the kids. They have 75 applications waiting for pre-k. “I’m going to let the kids speak. This is our 2nd meeting and we are drained.”

4th grade student shared concerns about the safety outside the community. The student has been there 6 years and is an honor student. “I want to go to school where we don’t have to fight to stay open I think Paderewski shouldn’t be closed over something that doesn’t matter.”

Student – This student feel welcome at school and talks about the gang violence everywhere. “This school is safe. No one will come in school and mess you. We are a family. I love this school with my heart. We need thee schools open because we grow as a community. One school, one family, keep our schools open doesn’t close them”. The next student read a poem she wrote.

A 7th grade student said, “We’re fighting for everybody’s school. If one school closes they can grow up to be gang bangers, drug dealers, anything. Another student said, “Every school should stay open”. The next student said, “I believe you are closing our schools for no reason. Paderskwi is home to me. I’d like to see my class picture on the wall. Student – “I’m here to fight for my school. I have nowhere else to go. I live one block away. Kids like me would have to take buses to school. My whole family went to this school”.

An 8th year teacher brought up questions including will the schools the student are sent to be better and student safety. Also, all the schools within walking distance are over crowded. Most students walk to school. She talked about the closing criteria “The school is in process of adding grades. Pre-K is a community need.” She talked about six different options instead of closing schools and gave this information to the panel.

Pilsen was next. First to speak was the LSC president. She said Pilsen had been consistently at Level 1. This was the first year as a level 3 School. She shared different proposal for the school. A student spoke next. “I’ve learned a lot cause of education. Keep our school open so more students in the community have the same opportunity to succeed. Teacher – “Last year was our first year on probation. We have a plan for our school. Only one grade went down, 4th, which, changed staff during testing.” Plans to improve the school include adding programs, tutoring, unit plans, and intervention programs. They have a high ELL population with a special education program for them. She said there was a 1.5-year growth in her classroom. “Do not close schools on the rise. We are on the rise. We will go back to our level 1 soon.

Special Ed teacher “It’s detrimental to special education students to move them. This is the only school in the area with Pre-K special Ed. We have four rooms with more than 100 special Ed students. It is difficult to move these kids; transportation and parents are comfortable in Pre-k. Many ask to stay at the school. 21% of the kids are special Ed.” They accept all special needs parents.

Parent with his son – He said he hopes to avoid closing. “I fought for three years to get appropriate services for my son. If you close Pilsen how much longer will he have to wait for services?”

Former student – CPS doesn’t see danger to students. Ashland is a high-level traffic area. Students would be in unknown neighborhoods. There are gang members. Children become easy targets when they cross territories.” He talked about the number of 13-18 year old homicides as a result of gang violence. “There is gang violence within schools, rival gang members in the same schools. If you close schools, safe environments will be taken away. CPS consolidating and closing schools increase deaths.” He gave a gang map and safety map posters to the panel.

Public Comment - The Executive Director of the Pilsen Neighborhood Community Council spoke in Spanish. “We have an ed plan worked on by agencies parents, schools and teachers. Shame we don’t have anyone from the commission here tonight. We support no schools closed.”

Speaker – Director of Community Center – “Closing public schools is bad policy. Don’t close any schools. We fought over population battle. It’s not fair for kids to worry if schools will close cause of psychological damage. Look to Springfield for money.”

Speaker- Pilsen Academy Community Partner talked about parents, teachers, school, support and students activity engaged in soccer, creative writing and service learning. “There are 16 21st Century academic enrichment classes for K-8, night classes for parents and kids, ESL, Saturday class, bilingual support, fitness, ISAT prep and numerous partnerships. They just got a grant for five more years.

Nelson Sosa – “We are not going to allow our schools to be taken away. We aren’t going to allow this injustice to take place. It’s about 98 million Charter schools like UNO are getting. Demand a moratorium on school closings!” “This is the opposite of what children need. We don’t want schools replaced by on union charter schools that don’t respect the community. We are sick of political games in this town”.

Miguel Selgado – Pilsen talked about Pilsen being the only community school open on Saturday and the danger of crossing busy streets to travel to different schools. He talked about increased safety concerns and the over 100 special needs students. They are growing and adding classes. “Pilsen should be taken off the list for potential school closings.”

Saucedo Teacher and CTU member Sarah Chambers talked about how Malcom X fought racism. She accused CPS of ignoring the needs of black and brown children calling their actions educational apartheid. The final speaker spoke in Spanish. This was the second Spanish-speaking speaker of the night for which no English translation was provided.

Below here are the prepared remarks by Sarah Chambers at the hearing on March 4, 2013. Additional reporting will follow on March 5 as it comes in. Sarah Chambers is a teacher in a Little Village school, union leader, and member of the CORE steering committee.

Parents, children, teachers and community supporters spoke out against the possible closing of Pilsen Community Academy at the March 4, 2013 hearing at Malcolm X College. Substance photo by David Vance.Sarah Chambers Speech at the Pilsen/Little Village Hearing. 3/4/13 It is no coincidence that this meeting is at Malcolm X College. Malcolm X fought against segregation and racisms and here we are today, 60 years later, confronting racism with the closing of the schools of brown and black children. This is not about school utilization or test scores. Let’s call this what it truly is: educational apartheid. The definition of apartheid is: an official policy of racial segregation involving political, legal and economic discrimination against non-whites.

We know this is economic discrimination because in 2011, Tim Cawley on the CPS Board of Education admitted publicly and I quote, “If we think there’s a chance that a building is going to be closed in the next 5 to 10 years, if we think it’s unlikely that it will continue to be a school, we are not going to invest in that building.”

The Board of Education has been deliberately starving the schools in Latino and African American areas because they know which schools they want to close. Rahm Emanuel knows the list. These meetings are just a farce, a hunger games to have people beg for their schools. But he doesn’t know our power. When they were going to close la casita en Whittier school, what did we do? We occupied Whittier and we won! Are you all ready to occupy your schools to show Rahm that we won’t back down? Rahm, if you leave these 149 schools on the list, you will have 149 Whittiers. I’ll leave you with the words of Malclm X, “Early on, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise!” Pilsen, Little Village are you ready to make some noise?


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